Political donations flooded into Premier Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative Party in 2019, despite his government's controversies and his own drooping poll numbers.
The PCs collected more than $4.6 million in contributions, according to the latest available data from the Elections Ontario website. That dwarfs the fundraising of all other provincial parties and beats the total combined donations to the opposition New Democratic, Liberal and Green parties in 2019.
The NDP's fundraising reported so far this year to Elections Ontario stands at $1.44 million. The Ontario Liberal Party has collected about $770,000 in donations, while the campaigns of its six leadership contestants have fundraised another $790,000, a significant portion of which must be passed on to party coffers.
The Green Party of Ontario, with leader Mike Schreiner as its sole MPP in the Legislature, has reported some $500,000 in contributions this year.
If an individual's donations to a party over the course of the year total less than $100, they are not reported on the Elections Ontario website, so all parties' final fundraising totals for 2019 will be somewhat higher.
The PCs have actually collected more than $6 million in donations this year, according to party spokesperson Marcus Mattinson.
Fight with teachers
"Our fundraising performance confirms that Doug Ford's vision for Ontario is one which resonates with the people," said Mattinson in a statement emailed to CBC News.
The haul comes despite a tumultuous year for Ford's government that has included a fight with teachers unions over class sizes, a fierce backlash from parents of children with autism to changes in how and when services are provided to families, and contentious dealings with municipal counterparts.
Ford's polling numbers took a hit, with a series of polls in the spring consistently putting his personal approval rating below 30 per cent.
Total 2019 fundraising by Andrea Howarth's NDP exceeds $2.5 million, according to the party's communications director, Erin Morrison. She said the number of people who signed up online to be recurring monthly donors has quadrupled since the 2018 election.
"It's a vote of confidence from a growing group of people who have made a decision to go with Horwath in 2022," said Morrison in a statement emailed to CBC News.
Fundraising by each party is down from the election year of 2018, a trend that is historically typical of provincial party financing. In 2019, the Ontario parties also had to compete for fundraising attention with the national parties because it was a federal election year.
PCs tweak fundraising rules
The PCs leapt to a quick fundraising lead soon the year began and raised more than half of their 2019 total in one single night in February: a $1,250-a-plate dinner featuring a speech by Ford.
It is common for the party in power to bring in the most political donations. However, in 2016 and 2017, the final two years of Liberal government in Ontario, the PCs collected by far the most.
The Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne changed Ontario political party finance rules in 2017, banning corporate and union donations, reducing the maximum permitted annual contribution, and closing loopholes that allowed donors to exceed limits. Her party had faced criticism over allegations of offering access to cabinet ministers in exchange for the biggest donations.
Ford's PCs have tweaked the fundraising rules since then, allowing the premier and cabinet ministers to attend fundraising events, and increasing the maximum annual individual donation to $1,600.
Each party also gets an annual allowance funded from the provincial treasury, based on the number of votes received in the 2018 election.
Provincial subsidies to each party in 2020 will be:
- PC: $5.1 million.
- NDP: $4.6 million.
- Liberal: $2.5 million.
- Green: $584,000.